Nigeria’s current account deficit closed at $4.8 billion dollars at the end of March 2020 as the country continues to import more than its exports. This is according to provisional data from the CBN and analyzed by Nairametrics research.
This is as the country continuous to face pressure pressure to unify the exchange rate and reflect the true value of the naira against the dollars.
A current account deficit occurs when a country’s foreign liabilities exceed its foreign assets. It is exacerbated when the country imports more than it exports. Nigeria has reported a negative current account balance in 15 quarters out of the 25 quarters since 2014 under the Buhari administration. The figures are stated net because the inflows are set off against outflows, thus a negative balance deficit.
Nigeria recorded a current account deficit of N17 trillion in 2019 the highest since we started tracking in 2014. In the last quarter of 2014, Nigeria’s current account deficit was a whopping $6.9 trillion one of the worst on record.
Large current account deficits typically fan devaluation calls as it suggest the country’s reserve is not adequate to meet long term commitments hence the need to adjust the currency. In March the central bank devalued the official rate at the NAFEX to about N388/$1 and recently devalued the exchange rate window for importers to N380/$1.
First Quarter Deficit
According to the data, Nigeria’s total exports was $13.3 billion out of which crude oil and gas exports was $11.2 billion. Non-oil exports was $2.1 billion. Nigeria’s non-oil import was $11 billion out of which services gulped $8.8 billion. Investment income which includes dividends cost about $2.8 billion in currency outflows.
Services remains a huge source of forex outflows in the country and it comprises of travel, transportation, payment for technical services etc. Services gulped about $33 billion last year alone. However, net portfolio outflows in the first quarter of 2020 was as high as $8.3 billion out of which $6.9 billion was for debt securities mostly short term.
In total about $12.8 billion was outflowed from the country for debt securities in the 4th and 1st quarter of 2019 and 2020 respectively.
What this means
As the country continues to deal with the twin challenges of a drop in crude oil prices and the covid-19 pandemic there is an urgent need to reverse the trend of a current account deficit if it is to keep the exchange rate stable. Depending on who you listen to, pent up dollar demand could be as high as $2 billion leading calls for another devaluation.
The world bank has also called for a unification of the exchange rate, a situation that could either lead to a devaluation or beyond the NAFEX rate or enforce stability if there is enough liquidity. The exchange rate at the black market is currently N365/$1 however the external reserve is about $36.1 billion.